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Microbial Odor Control in Sewage Transport and Treatment Using Sulfur Bacteria

Sources of Odor

Odors may be generated in any section of a sewage collection system or wastewater treatment plant.
These odors may be a result of industrial discharges; reactions which take place between combinations
of industrial and municipal wastes mixing in the system; or anaerobic bacterial metabolism. In the
collection system biodegradation of organic matter rapidly consumes all or most of the available
oxygen after which anaerobic processes take over. Odors escape from lift stations and maintenance
access manholes as well as the headworks to the wastewater treatment plant. Perhaps the most serious
foul smells are those that develop in interceptor sewers and lift stations, as they are often located in
residential and/or commercial areas.

In the wastewater treatment plant odors are generated in the primary clarifiers and scum pits, aeration
basins, secondary clarifiers, sludge processing equipment, and sludge storage areas. Sludge in drying
beds, on vacuum filters, in storage tanks, or in sludge dryers at the wastewater treatment plant is also a
strong potential source of odor.

Hydrogen sulfide (H2S) is the most common cause of odor complaints probably the source for more
complaints than all other malodorous compounds combined. In addition to the rotten egg odor, H2S
causes serious corrosion problems costing many millions of dollars each year, serious health and safety
concerns, and can diminish the effectiveness of any wastewater facility due to toxicity to the biomass
that is necessary for biological treatment.

Volatile fatty acids, such as acetic, propionic and butyric acid, have a sharp or sour odor. Generally,
these compounds must be present at higher concentrations than hydrogen sulfide to be offensive but
they can be produced at significant concentrations and are typically a component of odors from
anaerobic processes.

Production of Hydrogen Sulfide
Under anaerobic conditions, various compounds or ions can be used by different groups of microbes as
the electron acceptor. If neither oxygen nor nitrate (NO3
) is present, microbes that use sulfate (SO4
as an electron acceptor (sulfate reducing bacteria) predominate and these microbes generate sulfide.
C6H12O6 + NO3
CO2 + H2O + N2 +N2O +biomass (denitrifying bacteria)
C6H12O6 + SO4
CO2 + H2O + HS
+biomass (sulfate reducing bacteria)
(Note: equations are illustrative and not meant to show stoichiometry; H
on the left side
indicates acid is consumed in the reaction while H
on the right indicates acid generation.)
Thus, as sulfate is normally present in wastewater, the sulfur cycle becomes a critical step in the
breakdown of waste under anaerobic conditions. Sulfides are present in three forms: hydrogen sulfide
(H2S) at low pH, hydrosulfide ion (HS
) at neutral pH and sulfide ion (S
) at high pH. The ionic forms
stay dissolved in water while the neutral H2S is easily volatilized.
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Degradation of Hydrogen Sulfide
The oxidation of H2S under highly aerobic conditions, e.g. in the biofilm above the waterline in sewers,
generates corrosive sulfuric acid.
+ O2 SO4
+ H

In contrast, the sulfur bacteria oxidize sulfide to elemental sulfur without the generation of acid.

H2S + CO2 S
+CH2O (organic cellular components)

Elemental sulfur is not used by sulfate reducing bacteria, so the cycle is disrupted. This is a principal
method used for microbial control of hydrogen sulfide in sewer systems and treatment plants.

Production of Fatty Acids
Anaerobic metabolism typically generates volatile fatty acids such as acetic, propionic, butyric and
longer chain acids. Although these compounds can be metabolic degradation products of a variety of
compounds such as amino acids, sugars and lipids, they are formed in large amounts from the
breakdown of fats. These compounds contribute to the sour odor of anaerobic polluted water.


Degradation of Fatty Acids
Fatty acids can be biodegraded to carbon dioxide and water under both aerobic and anaerobic
conditions eliminating the odor. Sulfur bacteria utilize fatty acids in addition to oxidizing sulfides.

General Conditions for Microbial Odor Control Applications with Sulfur Bacteria
The following conditions are recommended:
- pH: must be between 6.0 - 9.0.
- eH: must not be below - 350 millivolts
- Temperature: must not exceed 108 F.
- H2S: must not exceed 80 ppm dissolved when ANL is introduced.
- Toxic conditions - which adversely affect the naturally present biomass

Some Example Applications

Industry Microbial Dosage Results
Dairy/Cheese 40 ppm of flow/day Eliminated H2S odors, reduced BOD5
Reduced pond aeration costs
Rendering 40 ppm of flow/day Eliminated odor complaints, reduced aerator
costs, met permit standards
Meat Packing 10 ppm of flow/day Dramatically reduced H2S odors
Municipal 6 ppm of flow/day Dramatically reduced odor calls, Pond H2S levels
<.05 ppm, Reduced surface solids
Municipal/Food Processing 7 ppm of flow/day Drastically reduced H2S levels
BOD removal increased up to 90%
Municipal 1.25 ppm of flow/day Dissolved H2S reduced from 5 to <1ppm
Pulp and Paper 2 ppm of flow/day 1 clarifier odor eliminated, press room
H2S levels 50 ppm start to<2ppm
Soy Bean Refining 11 ppm of flow/day Odor complaints eliminated, effluent COD/TSS